13 November 2010

Cauliflower - The Best Veg On The Table .... And A Poll

(Photograph copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)

This post is in response to quite a few requests for the recipe for my favorite favoritist cauliflower recipe. I LOVE this dish. So does everyone else that tries it. It's a little fiddly to make, but it's so good, you won't care.

I got the original from the The New York Times over a year ago. I make it a little differently, in the interest of faster cooking, but it's essentially the same recipe.

(To the writer - please accept my humble and grovelling apologies for changing your recipe. It's wonderful, and it deserves to be spread around a bit more, don't you think? I promise that I am not a professional cook or in any way making a nickel from what I write.)

Here goes.

Cauliflower with Almonds, Capers and Raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1 medium head of cauliflower, washed, trimmed and cut into 1" (or so) florets
1 1/2 teaspoons butter

Set aside.

3 tablespoons bread crumbs (I use panko, and a little more than this)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil

In a large oven proof pan (I use cast iron pan for this), saute the bread crumbs in the olive oil until lightly browned. Remove from pan, set aside, then wipe out pan with a paper towel.

3 tablespoons slivered raw almonds
Salt and pepper to taste

Add the almonds and s & p to the pan and brown. Set aside and wipe the pan as before.

2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or champagne vinegar if you like it better.)
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon of capers, drained
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, minced
1 teaspoon chives, chopped fine

In a small saucepan, simmer these ingredients until the raisins are plump and soft. Set aside.

(I don't always have fresh herbs on hand. I've substituted a little minced shallot for the chives, and used dried herbs instead of fresh to fill in what I don't have. It still works, but the flavor is not as intense. Use your judgment, and pick the flavors you like best to concentrate on.)

Now....the fun part.

Saute the cauliflower with the butter in your big pan until slightly browned. Put the whole pan in the oven, and roast until the cauliflower is tender-crisp.

When the cauliflower is done, put it into a large bowl and add almonds, raisin mixture and lastly the bread crumbs.

The original recipe calls for the head of cauliflower to be sliced rather than separated into florets. As far as I can tell, this would mean browning each slice on both sides and then putting it into the oven which would mean a whole lot more work in the end. I freely admit I'm a short-cut goddess in the kitchen. Separating the head of cauliflower into florets means less time cooking and it's easier to serve family-style.

Most cauliflower recipes call for massive amounts of cream or cheese. I think those are far too heavy to be served at a big meal like Thanksgiving or Christmas. There's enough going on on the table without adding something that's going to hit everyone's stomach with a thud. The other down side is that those recipes completely disguise any flavor the cauliflower has of it's own - and it has a nice one.

Need I mention that this has FAR fewer calories and MUCH less fat than the standard gratin?


Now, I posted this in response to Pooham's poll on Slate. She asked everyone for their favorite side dish for Thanksgiving dinner. Pooham, I hope you don't mind, but let's ask the same question here.

So give, everyone: What is your favorite side dish for any holiday dinner?


  1. Thanks for the recipe - that sounds yummy! Now if only I were the type to cook. Sigh. Still, I'm a HUGE cauliflower fan - raw or cooked. And the best part about it is it's the gift that keeps giving - for the rest of the day, every time you burp, you can enjoy it all over again. ;)

    Anyway, my new favorite T-day side dish is this carrot pudding a friend of my mom's brought last year. It sounded gross, but I always make a point of tasting everything, because you never know what you'll like until you try it. It was the most delicious thing I'd ever had! It wasn't a pudding as in Jell-o pudding, but rather a bready type of pudding. I really should get the recipe because I have no clue what was in it.

  2. I love carrot pudding - carrots are very sweet, so they're perfect for pudding. The Boy loves sweet potatoes - he whips them with butter and some banana and they almost qualify as dessert.

  3. Awesome recipe! Now if only I liked cauliflower... (Sadly, it makes me physically ill when I try to eat it or turnips. I have no idea what's going on there and instead try to gracefully accept the stigma that I'm a food weirdo.)

    My favorite Thanksgiving dish is something else that I'm not allowed to have. My mother makes the best casserole style Macaroni and Cheese ever, but I developed lactose intolerance back in college and can't manage the stuff anymore. I miss it though.

  4. Corey, I bet this flavor profile would work beautifully with green beans. You wouldn't even have to put them into the oven, just saute them in the pan until they're a little brown - not mushy - and use the same toppings.

    Also, get thee to a drugstore! Ask your pharmacist where the Lactaid pills are. Take two before you eat anything with dairy in it and you'll be just fine. I've been lactose intolerant since birth and that stuff is brilliant. I can eat whatever I want.

  5. Thanks Messy, sounds delicious and I'm going to try it!

  6. Good morning all,

    My oldest daughter's boyfriend, a vegan, makes a dish very similar to this where he uses new, small brussel sprouts, halved, in place of the cauliflower florets. His recipe does not include the capers, which now that I think of it is a serious omission (did I mention I really like the flavor hit capers provide to a dish). It is amazingly good. I suspect mixing the sprouts with the cauliflower would also be excellent.

  7. I've thought of using brussels sprouts with this. They're in season right now and I love them.

    A tip on buying them, though. If you've ever seen the way brussels sprouts grow, it's the smallest ones on the top of the stalk that are the most bitter and sour. The big ones from the bottom are sweeter and more tender. didn't know this until I bought them by the stalk at the farmer's market. Some of the smallest sprouts were inedible, they were so bitter.

    The vegan boyfriend will freak, but there's nothing quite like bacon with brussels sprouts.

  8. I love brussels sprouts, too, but for some reason they always stink up my whole house for hours when I cook them (oven roasted w/olive oil & salt). Any tips to minimize the stink?

  9. I have found plentiful consumption of event-appropriate adult beverages during the entire occasion makes all problems less stressful. I am fortunate that a local winery produces a wonderfully light and flavorful pear wine that goes great with either pork or poultry and is great with T-day.

  10. jburd, it's not at all unusual for four people to drink five bottles of wine over dinner at the Messy house. Mind you, we're eating dinner for three or four hours as well. Doing dishes can be a bit...interesting afterwards, but fun is had by all.

    Sadly, we know very few people that we're willing to open the amazing wines for. I know it sounds picky and ghastly, but I'm not going to pop the cork on the good pinot for someone who, a mere couple of years ago, would have poured it into a glass with Coke in it.

  11. Amy, I'm willing to take the smell for the sake of the yummy. Besides, there are usually all kinds of good smells going on at the same time, so I don't worry about it.